Social Media has reminded us of the existence of eternity and judgment in the last few days. You may have noticed on the news that Charles Manson died. He was the head of the Manson family that was particularly evil and engaged in many murders, including the pregnant actress Sharon Tate. Many have celebrated Manson’s death, and all the celebrations have one theme: Manson will face judgment. Every one of those people noting that Charles Manson will face judgment also have no doubt about what the outcome will be: he will be condemned to hell. It’s sad to see people take such joy in the death and ultimate condemnation of others, no matter how evil they are. As a follower of Christ, I know that Jesus died to even Charles Manson a chance to have eternal life. No person is worthless in God’s economy, and all who seek Him can gain redemption.
In the eyes of God, the death of any person who has not turned to Him is a tragedy. The grace of God that we have because of the death of Jesus on the cross is available to all people and the truth that some reject that grace is a sad truth. Part of that truth is that judgment exists and that one day, we’ll all face the final judgment, and we’ll deal with judgment along the way while we’re living. It’s a judgment that comes anytime we’re reminded of our sin and how we’ve turned away from God. These “formative” judgments, to adapt an educational term, are designed to mold us into the likeness of Jesus Christ by turning us away from out sin. Ultimately, though, we will be called to give an account of our life to God. Peter makes that clear: “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” (1 Peter 4:5)
Peter’s warning in that verse, while it applies to all people, is specifically made to those who live in wild debauchery who wonder why we as followers of Christ don’t engage in that debauchery as well. To be specific, Peter described it as “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (v 3) Lest we think Peter is condemning these pagans (his word) he reminds these followers of Christ that that is how they used to live. The grace of God had changed these believers so that they no longer participated in those sinful behaviors. Even when those pagans invited and expected followers of Christ to join them, they stayed true to God’s call on their lives. They stayed true to God’s call because of God’s grace working in them.
The temptation to return to old ways is very strong sometimes. I’m reminded, though, that I’ve already been judged and found guilty. That judgment came while I was living, and I recognized my own guilt. I pled guilty and threw myself on the grace and mercy of God. Being a follower of Christ because I received His grace doesn’t make me better than other people, it does, however, make me better than I used to be. His grace also molds me and inspires me to be more gracious to other people. The more gracious I am, the less judgmental and thus, the more likely that the death of someone notorious or infamous leads me to tears, not to cheers. As we see the news these days and look at the evil that is being revealed, and the people who are engaging in it, do you pray for their destruction or for their salvation. The judgment of God while we live leads us to grace. The final judgment, for those who haven’t turned to Christ, leads to condemnation. We often throw the phrase “a fate worse than death” to describe what some people are going through. The truth is that for those who don’t know Christ, there is no fate worse than death and separation from God.
Oh Lord, thank You for judging me now and leading me in Your grace. Let me show others Your grace.